I headed off to NoirCon. It was a misty morning so the fog floated over the Hudson as the train rumbled south. Before you knew it we were passing under the George Washington and pulling into Penn Station. After a relatively quick and painless change, I was on my way to Philly. I’d already missed the Noir at the Bar night, but there’s only so many classes I can cancel (>_<) I got some grading done that night and was ready to dive into the dark the next morning.
And dark it was, kicking off with Steve Hodel‘s talk on the Black Dahlia killer — or as he called him, “Dad” O.O Yes, really — and worse, there’s a lot more murders he can be convincingly linked to in that time. There’s a good write up at Out of the Gutter, but suffice to say the crowd was riveted, convinced and horrified all at once. What must it have been like to put the pieces together (after his father’s death) and come to that realisation. Hodel, who refers to himself as the ‘black sheep’ because he became a cop, has done a thorough job. If you’re a true crime aficionado I highly recommend checking out Hodel’s work. Because the real gutting thing is that the most gruesome aspects of the killing was the ‘murder as art’ angle. Deeply disturbing stuff.
Of course the first thing was catching up with friends like Richard Godwin and his lovely wife Page.
Next up were Jean W. Cash, Joan Schenkar, and Robert Polito, biographers of Flannery O’Connor, Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith respectively to talk about the links and rifts between Highsmith and O’Connor who seem to have similarly dark imaginations but could not be more different — nor could the two biographers. Schenkar is a hoot and as lively and loopy as her superb tome on Highsmith while Cash is a genteel and soft-spoken academic, but together they gave great anecdotes and talked about the few chance interactions between the authors, two of the greatest American voices of the 20th century.
Over lunch we got to see a short film courtesy of Jeff Wong, Ross Macdonald—In the First Person (1970), which had been rescued from obscurity where the author talks about his writing and life with Margaret Millar, whose work is coming back into print and long-overdue recognition. Always interesting to see writers talk about process. Which is my excuse for skipping the next panel to have a drink with Patti Abbott — yes, after all these years we finally got to meet face to face after a lot of near misses. Skål!
I’m going to have to do this in pieces as I have to run just now, so if you want to skip ahead read fellow Existential Noir panelist Carole Mallory’s write up.